July 8, 2010 – Arthritis refers to the inflammation of joints, which means a joint or joints may be swollen, stiff and painful. Arthritis is usually persistent, lasting for months or years.
There are over a hundred different types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, not all of which technically fall into the above description but have similar symptoms and are managed in a similar way.
Arthritis, which occurs before the age of 16 years, is called juvenile arthritis.
“Juvenile arthritis” refers to a number of different types of arthritis that occur in children – the most prevalent type is “juvenile idiopathic arthritis” (JIA), also known as “juvenile rheumatoid arthritis” (JRA) or “juvenile chronic arthritis” (JCA).
What Causes Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It’s not known exactly what causes JRA in kids however; research indicates that it is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, white blood cells lose the ability to tell the difference between the body’s own healthy cells and harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses.
The immune system, which is supposed to protect the body from these harmful invaders, instead releases chemicals that can damage healthy tissues and cause inflammation and pain.
Some of the signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis can include:
? Swelling, warmth, redness and/or tenderness in and around joints.
? Stiffness, which is particularly evident on waking in the mornings and after periods of inactivity
? Limitations in the range of movement of joints
? Limping, due to sore or stiff knees, ankles or hips
? weak muscles
? Changes in the shape or growth of bones
? Damage to joints (caused by the erosion of bone and cartilage).
Other problems that can occur include irritability, fatigue and poor concentration, poor appetite or difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, rash, fever and visual problems.
Kids and teenagers with arthritis have a number of ways of managing their arthritis, including the following:
? Looking after joints
? Looking after eyes, teeth and bones
? Healthy eating
? Pain management, and
? Support from family and friends.
In many cases, JRA may be treated with a combination of:
? Physical therapy
In specific situations, your child may require injection of corticosteroids into the joint or surgery.
The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and inflammation, slow down or prevent the destruction of joints, and restore use and function of the joints to promote optimal growth, physical activity, and social and emotional development in your child.